Solar energy can help reduce carbon emissions, of course – but an even bigger benefit to cash-strapped public school districts may be the cost savings that it can engender.

Across the nation, schools are installing solar arrays to not only teach their students first-hand about renewable power but reduce their energy outlays. With thousands of school districts facing budget shortfalls – a problem that was only exacerbated by the recent recession – finding savings wherever possible is becoming an imperative.

One example is the William S. Hart Union School District in Santa Clarita, California, which spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on energy every year. Now, the Santa Clarita Valley Signal reported recently, the district has learned that solar installations could slash its energy costs by roughly 40 percent.

Santa Clarita’s school district is currently working on plans to install solar panels on parking lots and vacant land. It expects to save $400,000 in the first year that the installations are up and running – and over the next 20 years, its savings should total $25 million.

Gilbert, Arizona is taking a similarly aggressive tack with solar power. It’s installing nearly 1,700 solar panels on the roof of its Campo Verde High School, the Arizona Republic reported February 22; the panels should produce as much as a quarter of the energy that the facility needs.

Gilbert’s school district will pay 7 cents a kilowatt-hour for the power its solar arrays produce – so over the next 20 years, it expects to save more than $370,000 as the cost of conventional energy rises.

Some districts are adopting solar because of the educational opportunities it presents. Texas utility TXU Energy has instituted a program – the TXU Solar Academy – whereby it provides educational materials and training sessions to teachers; it even provides participating students with a 1-kilowatt solar array so they can see how solar technology works.

Lakehill Preparatory School in Dallas recently received eight solar panels under the program. Melissa Carpenter, a teacher at the school, told the city’s NBC affiliate that she is excited her students will be learning more about solar energy.

“Solar energy is going to be a permanent field and the wave of the future,” she said. “It’s important that [the students] know about it.”

source: getsolar